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C. K. Nayudu and Sachin Tendulkar naturally figure in this captivating history of cricket in India, but so too—in arresting and unexpected ways—do Mahatma Gandhi and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The Indian careers of those great English cricketers Lord Harris and D. R. Jardine provide a window into the operations of Empire, while the extraordinary life of India's first great slow C. K. Nayudu and Sachin Tendulkar naturally figure in this captivating history of cricket in India, but so too—in arresting and unexpected ways—do Mahatma Gandhi and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The Indian careers of those great English cricketers Lord Harris and D. R. Jardine provide a window into the operations of Empire, while the extraordinary life of India's first great slow bowler, Palwankar Baloo, introduces the still-unfinished struggle against caste discrimination. Later chapters explore the competition between Hindu and Muslim cricketers in colonial India and the extraordinary passions now provoked when India plays Pakistan. An important, pioneering work, this is also a beautifully-written meditation on the ramifications of sport in society at large, and on how sport can influence both social and political history.


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C. K. Nayudu and Sachin Tendulkar naturally figure in this captivating history of cricket in India, but so too—in arresting and unexpected ways—do Mahatma Gandhi and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The Indian careers of those great English cricketers Lord Harris and D. R. Jardine provide a window into the operations of Empire, while the extraordinary life of India's first great slow C. K. Nayudu and Sachin Tendulkar naturally figure in this captivating history of cricket in India, but so too—in arresting and unexpected ways—do Mahatma Gandhi and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The Indian careers of those great English cricketers Lord Harris and D. R. Jardine provide a window into the operations of Empire, while the extraordinary life of India's first great slow bowler, Palwankar Baloo, introduces the still-unfinished struggle against caste discrimination. Later chapters explore the competition between Hindu and Muslim cricketers in colonial India and the extraordinary passions now provoked when India plays Pakistan. An important, pioneering work, this is also a beautifully-written meditation on the ramifications of sport in society at large, and on how sport can influence both social and political history.

30 review for A Corner of a Foreign Field: The Indian History of a British Sport

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ian Laird

    This book changed my literary life- and its influence goes well beyond books and reading. A Corner of a Foreign Field fed my growing interest in Indian cricket, introduced me to my favourite author, RK Narayan, sparked a curiosity about Indian literature, society and culture, and ultimately prompted a visit to India. A developing benefit from Guha’s book is the friendships I make on Goodreads with people from India and Indiaphiles. Ramachandra Guha is an educated and knowledgeable enthusiast who w This book changed my literary life- and its influence goes well beyond books and reading. A Corner of a Foreign Field fed my growing interest in Indian cricket, introduced me to my favourite author, RK Narayan, sparked a curiosity about Indian literature, society and culture, and ultimately prompted a visit to India. A developing benefit from Guha’s book is the friendships I make on Goodreads with people from India and Indiaphiles. Ramachandra Guha is an educated and knowledgeable enthusiast who writes with objective passion about cricket in India. The sub-title is instructive – ‘The Indian History of a British Sport’. It is a particularly Indian story, because communal grouping, caste and economic disparity are central to the story. India has not so much adapted the sport to their domestic circumstances, but rather cricket has been taken up with some vigour; as a means of achieving social cachet, as a means of promoting the interests of particular groups; communal, ethnic or social. It was taken up by people from all walks. Perhaps it’s a game which appeals to Indian sensibilities. It could be that it’s just a good game. And anyone who has played backyard or street cricket understands it doesn’t require much to get a game going. Parenthetically, one thing I’m curious about is how cricket has been taken up in former British colonies. It is strong throughout the subcontinent - India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka; Australia and New Zealand in the antipodes; and in Africa we have South Africa and Zimbabwe. But what about Canada? Why did cricket fail to take hold there as strongly as it has in the other places (recent World Cup notwithstanding)? Too cold maybe? Ice hockey and lacrosse are better games? Odd. As Guha details the development of cricket in India, he explains that it is pretty much on communal lines, with identifiable groups distinguished by community and religious identification, rather than by place or territory: Europeans, Parsis, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. As identifiable teams formed on communal bases, we get a feel for the way cricket structure developed: there were quadrangular and pentangular tournaments, fiercely contested, and matched became opportunities to advance the cause of the particular community, whether Sikhs, Parsis, Hindus or Moslems. And for that matter, the Europeans. While other centres are discussed, Guha focuses of Bombay, where the development of cricket was strongest. Guha is particularly good at telling us tales of early Bombay heroes like batsman C K Nayudu and the low caste slow bowler (and left-hander to boot) Palwankar Baloo, who made an impact, but later than otherwise because of barriers which confronted Dalits. He struggled for selection in the Hindu team and was not given the leadership opportunities that perhaps he deserved. Guha makes the point that after cricket was first established the British continued to control the expansion of cricket with their own interests paramount. Along the way he debunks a few myths; for example he suggests that Lord Harris’s reputation for promoting the game in India has less to do altruism and much more to do with self-interest. The development of cricket in India was held back at least at the international level because many of the elite sent their children to English schools and universities. Several Indians ended up playing for England; Duleepsinhji and Ranjitsinhji for example and indeed the Nawab of Pataudi (the one from the thirties). Of course his son the next Nawab captained India in the 1960s – and with the use on only one eye – an extraordinary story in itself). But he did study at Oxford and played for the university. The establishment of the Ranji Trophy (named for Ranjitsinhji) is important because it represents the commencement of the current Indian domestic competition, and is, of course organised on a secular, city and regional basis. Guha also tells us something of the growing power of the Indian cricket administration, beginning to realise the weight they carry in the game at home and abroad. Although this is told in more details in Mihir Bose’s book, A History of Indian Cricket.which is a good companion to this one. *** I like Indian cricketers and my wife gave me this book for our anniversary in 2003. I was not a big reader at that point, but I had read, at her instigation, Pride and Prejudice , A Handful of Dust and Vikram Seth’sA Suitable Boy. Her inscription says: ‘For my suitable boy’, which is very sweet. On the cover of my edition is a photo of a man in a dhoti behind some cricket stumps with some children. The caption reads: ‘The novelist R K Narayan playing cricket with his nephews, Mysore, 1950.’ This beautiful photograph evokes the pleasure of park cricket (or backyard cricket, or beach cricket) played with family and friends. RK Narayan looks like a nice man. I knew nothing about him so I looked him up and his books and I found out he was quite famous, although I have since discovered that few people I talk to in Australia have heard of him, something I remedy straight away. We bought Narayan’s Swami and Friends, which is charming and poignant, and so began an eBay quest for more of his books. By the time I had read three or four he had become my favourite author. We then purchased all his works from all round the world and I have now read the lot. In 2013 we went to India to meet up with my step daughter Zoe who was doing a social work placement in Chennai and Kochi. We all went on a journey to Mysore and visited RK Narayan’s house, unoccupied, saved from destruction, but in caught in a bureaucratic struggle of culture and preservation. RK Narayan has been influential in my life. Graham Greene’s oft quoted words that without Narayan he would not know what it was like to be an Indian are particularly apt. The Indian love of cricket is no less important for anybody from a cricket playing country, such as Australia, to understanding Indian history, culture and society. When we were in India and said we were from Australia, often the response from the locals was to say: ‘Ricky Ponting’, ‘Shane Warne!’, ‘Mister Gilly’ (Adam Gilchrist), all Australian players, seemingly as well known on the sub-continent as they are in their native land. Cricket gives us something in common which is profoundly important in understanding each other. This book explains how the game took such a hold. It is a fantastic read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Vikas Lather

    'Dr Ram Manohar Lohia's pet hates were Jawaharlal Nehru, the English language, and the game of cricket, generally in that order. As Lohia put it in a press conference during the first week of December 1960 (while a test match going on between India and Pakistan), "Throw out Nehru, and we can all happily start playing Kabaddi because the game of cricket symbolized our continuous colonialism." After the conference Lohia walked to a paanwallah, and asked for paan, and while chewing it he asked: "Kya 'Dr Ram Manohar Lohia's pet hates were Jawaharlal Nehru, the English language, and the game of cricket, generally in that order. As Lohia put it in a press conference during the first week of December 1960 (while a test match going on between India and Pakistan), "Throw out Nehru, and we can all happily start playing Kabaddi because the game of cricket symbolized our continuous colonialism." After the conference Lohia walked to a paanwallah, and asked for paan, and while chewing it he asked: "Kya Hanif out ho gaya? " The answer came back "No, he is still batting". In this cricket-mad land, even the most active cricket-haters always succumb to its charm in the end.'

  3. 5 out of 5

    Vikas

    This was wow, this was awesome, this was a little bit slow but that's for the par for a book on history. This book is wonderful and I didn't even know about it till I get to know about it, funny how things can be. This is a history of cricket in India and it gave so much unknown information that it was informative and eye-opening. I hate that we don't care about history, I hate it that Palwankar Baloo is still not a well-known name and thankfully it's changing a bit and Baloo has some informatio This was wow, this was awesome, this was a little bit slow but that's for the par for a book on history. This book is wonderful and I didn't even know about it till I get to know about it, funny how things can be. This is a history of cricket in India and it gave so much unknown information that it was informative and eye-opening. I hate that we don't care about history, I hate it that Palwankar Baloo is still not a well-known name and thankfully it's changing a bit and Baloo has some information available on the net. But this book's narrations go before and after Baloo and tells us the beginnings and progress of the game in India. Maybe because I am not a big reader of history or maybe I am not old enough and maybe because I am not from Mumbai but I had no idea about the most famous cricket tournament in India before independence, but I guess considering we don't focus on history as much as we should as Indians, it's not surprising. Well at least it will be changing for me, for I know have read this book, read it slowly but surely and I already have a lot of history books by Mr. Guha and other writers and hope to put my ignorance about the history of India to a level where it's less ignorant but till then let's hope that more people get to know about this book and they also read after all almost everyone is a cricketer in India and that too All-Rounder. So yes very big recommendations to pick this book if you love cricket, you would be surprised by the history of the sport in India. People who don't read generally ask me my reasons for reading. Simply put I just love reading and so to that end I have made it my motto to just Keep on Reading. I love to read everything except for Self Help books but even those once in a while. I read almost all the genre but YA, Fantasy, Biographies are the most. My favorite series is, of course, Harry Potter but then there are many more books that I just adore. I have bookcases filled with books which are waiting to be read so can't stay and spend more time in this review, so remember I loved reading this and love reading more, you should also read what you love and then just Keep on Reading.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kaśyap

    A history of cricket in the subcontinent written by a good historian. This work focuses less on numbers and stats and more on the social and political circumstances in the colonial and postcolonial India and the role cricket played in it. The focus in this is mainly on cricket in Bombay and two of the most famous players in the Bombay cricketing scene. Palwankar Baloo, a slow left arm spinner and a Dalit. He was an early hero to Bhimrao Ambedkar, the draughtsman of the Indian constitution. We see A history of cricket in the subcontinent written by a good historian. This work focuses less on numbers and stats and more on the social and political circumstances in the colonial and postcolonial India and the role cricket played in it. The focus in this is mainly on cricket in Bombay and two of the most famous players in the Bombay cricketing scene. Palwankar Baloo, a slow left arm spinner and a Dalit. He was an early hero to Bhimrao Ambedkar, the draughtsman of the Indian constitution. We see his struggle to get into the Hindu cricket team despite being the best Indian cricketer of that time. The other one is C.K.Nayudu, a fearless and aggressive batsman who has been a constant presence in the Hindu cricket team The question of communal amity in the nation and cricket’s role in it keeps surfacing. Did sports being played on communal lines intensify communal rivalry or did it foster healthy rivalry and brought the communities together? A fascinating work and great writing.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Gorab Jain

    Loved the concept of splashing colors of cricket on the canvas of social history. Pivot point is the biography of an underrated (because he was Dalit!) bowler Palwankar Baloo. Starts with how the seeds of Cricket were sown in India. The struggles borne while it was carried forth dominantly by Parsis. From tournaments of religion based teams, to amalgamation of regional teams. All of this while India was rapidly transforming pre and post-independence. And finally the transformation the players and th Loved the concept of splashing colors of cricket on the canvas of social history. Pivot point is the biography of an underrated (because he was Dalit!) bowler Palwankar Baloo. Starts with how the seeds of Cricket were sown in India. The struggles borne while it was carried forth dominantly by Parsis. From tournaments of religion based teams, to amalgamation of regional teams. All of this while India was rapidly transforming pre and post-independence. And finally the transformation the players and their families have seen, from rags to riches...inevitably inviting politicians to the game. Nobody could have pulled it better than Guha sir.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Vibhor Dhote

    Although this book is about cricket, it is not only about it. It brilliantly interweaves India's social and political history along with the history of the game in this country; right from when the Parsis first took to it in the late 19th century, covering the early days of rivalry in the communal quadrangular/pentangular tournaments in Bombay in the early 20th century and the evolution of the game in the post-independence period. What stands out is his sketch of a hitherto rather unknown hero ' Although this book is about cricket, it is not only about it. It brilliantly interweaves India's social and political history along with the history of the game in this country; right from when the Parsis first took to it in the late 19th century, covering the early days of rivalry in the communal quadrangular/pentangular tournaments in Bombay in the early 20th century and the evolution of the game in the post-independence period. What stands out is his sketch of a hitherto rather unknown hero 'Palwankar Baloo', the Dalit left-arm slow bowler whom the author calls the first great Indian cricketer with his cricketing career spanning the 1890s to 1910s (if you hadn't heard his name till now, don't worry you were not alone). I have always been fond of cricket and have passionately followed the game ever since my grandfather introduced me to the game when I was 8 or 9 years old (1998-99). I am quite familiar with everything about the game after that point in time but had only heard about some of the greats such as Ranjitsinghji (Ranji), C.K.Nayadu, D.B.Deodhar, Vijay Merchant, Vijay Hazare, Syed Mushtaq Ali, and Vinoo Mankad. This book talks in detail about these cricketers and many more. Many of the references in this book took me back to my cricket-playing days in Mumbai. The thing that amazed me the most was how India's social and political history and cricket, are so closely related, and how cricket often found itself at the center of it all. For example, as often as you hear about the above-named cricketers, you will also hear about Gandhiji, Jawaharlal Nehru, B.R.Ambedkar, Lokmanya Tilak, M.A.Jinnah, Indira Gandhi, M.S.Golwalkar, and A.B.Vajpayee. This book took Ramchandra Guha more than ten years of research, and it shows. This book will not disappoint anyone who is even remotely interested in cricket and India's history. Thanks to my wife for gifting me this thoughtful present.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sanjay

    The book definitely lives up to its hype. The amount of background research that Guha has done for this book is staggering! Any lover of cricket and history cannot put this book down. A classic social history of this wonderful game. The focus and thrust seems to be a lot on Bombay, caste, religion and the politics that shaped up the development of the game in India. It cannot be called a comprehensive history of the game simply because it barely touches other geographical parts of the country. I The book definitely lives up to its hype. The amount of background research that Guha has done for this book is staggering! Any lover of cricket and history cannot put this book down. A classic social history of this wonderful game. The focus and thrust seems to be a lot on Bombay, caste, religion and the politics that shaped up the development of the game in India. It cannot be called a comprehensive history of the game simply because it barely touches other geographical parts of the country. It does not discuss the administration (BCCI) or its efforts at making the game what it is today. It does not touch upon the domestic system that has given us players like Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Tendulkar or Dravid in the modern era. Nevertheless a fascinating read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Viju

    There definitely is history to many a game. There definitely is history to the game of cricket. And there definitely is an Indian history to a British sport like cricket. Ram Guha, in his inimitable style, pens this book linking the (mostly) unknown first Indian players of the game prior to independence and how the game also took a role, albeit small, in the uprising against the British. Indian history is definitely Ram Guha's strong point and when he combines it with a game he is passionate for There definitely is history to many a game. There definitely is history to the game of cricket. And there definitely is an Indian history to a British sport like cricket. Ram Guha, in his inimitable style, pens this book linking the (mostly) unknown first Indian players of the game prior to independence and how the game also took a role, albeit small, in the uprising against the British. Indian history is definitely Ram Guha's strong point and when he combines it with a game he is passionate for, there definitely is a joyous read. For me, cricket was all about the happenings post 1993 Hero Cup until I read this book and I am glad I did. A highly recommended read if you are fan of history and/or cricket!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Yogarshi

    A nice peek into the humble origins of India's biggest sport, from its earliest days as a game played by Parsis in Bombay, to pre-Independence communal tension-charged Pentangular tournaments, to modern day when it has become a major commercial entity. Instead of hammering us with statistics and mundane descriptions of games, Guha does a nice job of tying the game to the evolving ideas of a nation in the throes of a freedom struggle.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Manthan Joshi

    A typical Guha novel! The book never goes dry in any of the parts. A smooth flow, with the tiniest intricacies and attention to detail about every event described. After reading this, you start appreciating all the people and the factors that have contributed to the popularity of cricket in India. The book wonderfully potrays all the characters, including heroes like CK Nayudu and Sachin Tendulkar and unsung heroes like the Palwankar brothers! A must read for a sports history enthusiast!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Madhulika Liddle

    The Indian History of a British Sport, the subtitle of Ramachandra Guha’s A Corner of a Foreign Field, is an apt description of the gist of this book, and yet it falls short of what Guha actually covers in the course of close to 500 pages of cricket history. Because his work encompasses not just the history of cricket in the Indian subcontinent but the history of a lot else besides, all of it in some way or the other related to cricket. Thus, he talks about everything from how cricket spread fro The Indian History of a British Sport, the subtitle of Ramachandra Guha’s A Corner of a Foreign Field, is an apt description of the gist of this book, and yet it falls short of what Guha actually covers in the course of close to 500 pages of cricket history. Because his work encompasses not just the history of cricket in the Indian subcontinent but the history of a lot else besides, all of it in some way or the other related to cricket. Thus, he talks about everything from how cricket spread from the British who brought it to India, to the Indians themselves, to the way the BCCI—and by extension, Indian cricket—today commands the world of cricket, for good or for bad. Guha looks at the development of the sport across about a century and a half, from when teams of Parsi cricketers in Bombay began to excel in it during the late 1800s, up to the turn of the millennium (when this book was written), and about a decade beyond (when Guha added an additional chapter in this edition, to take into consideration developments after the book had been first written). Instead of making this a straightforward history of the sport in India, Guha uses it to show the socio-political, cultural and economic background of the corresponding period in India: how cricket was influenced, say, by politics, by religion and caste, and by other cultural factors. And, vice-versa, how cricket influenced these. There are some very fine character sketches that emerge in the course of the book: first and foremost, the bowler Palwankar Baloo and his brothers; the charismatic CK Nayudu; and several others, not all of them players (AFS Talyarkhan is a case in point) whose lives and views on cricket come vividly alive. There are plenty of politicians and statesmen in these pages too, some cricketers, some not, some others influenced by or influencing cricket in the most unforeseen ways. Guha is immensely informative, but the way he threads his narrative together, quoting from newspapers, advertisements, letters, and more, he never comes across as pedantic. Instead, he’s brilliantly entertaining (there are many astonishing, poignant, and even outright hilarious anecdotes in the book—I loved the very last one, for instance, as well as one regarding a boy’s attempts to get Sarojini Naidu’s autograph). The photographs (though there are too few of them) are a rare treasure, and Guha’s style of writing is so fluid and readable—and so full of insight and a deep, genuine passion for cricket—that even if you’re slightly interested in cricket, you’re likely to get pulled in as I was. I was fascinated by A Corner of a Foreign Field. I learnt a lot (I am embarrassed to admit I had never even heard of Palwankar Baloo before this), and was eventually both nostalgic (for the cricket I had seen as a child) and made more than a little melancholy as well as nauseated by the realization that that style of cricket—with its accompanying grace and courtesy, both on the part of the players and the audience—was pretty much gone, perhaps forever. I have only one grouse: I do wish Guha had at least made some mention of women’s cricket. Given the status of women in India, the general lack of women’s empowerment and the many obstacles in the path of women wanting to pursue a career in sports, I think it’s pretty commendable that the Indian women’s cricket team performs as well as it does.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Shom Biswas

    Reviewed this for some blog of mine when I was a kid, and the book had just been published in 2002 . I love social history. I love sports. I quite like cricket. So I picked up “A corner of a foreign field” with hardly any trepidation. I had to like the book…. And you know what? I did. Now I am not a greenhorn in the cricketing history of our country. I remember actually identifying Palwankar Baloo’s snap at some quiz somewhere. I did know him as the first in the line of great spinners that India Reviewed this for some blog of mine when I was a kid, and the book had just been published in 2002 . I love social history. I love sports. I quite like cricket. So I picked up “A corner of a foreign field” with hardly any trepidation. I had to like the book…. And you know what? I did. Now I am not a greenhorn in the cricketing history of our country. I remember actually identifying Palwankar Baloo’s snap at some quiz somewhere. I did know him as the first in the line of great spinners that India has produced, and had read of the famous unofficial tour to England in the early part of the last century where this great cricketer, with only two English words in his vocabulary (How’s that!) wrecked havoc among the best of the English batsmen (After reading Guha’s book, I tend to believe that this story of Baloo and his command over the queen’s language was more of romanticised urban legend that anything else). I did know him as one of the first few truly national figures among Dalits. I had in fact heard of the Triangulars (of Mumbai) which eventually became the Quadrangulars and then the Pentangulars. I have heard and read of the exploits of CK Nayudu, and the paeans written for him by musty-eyed old cricket writers. I had heard of such names as Buchi Babu and Lord Harris and CB Fry. And there were many take homes for me from this book. In a clipped, honest, sturdy rather than poetic style, the writer details for us the whole history of Indian cricket, especially of its pre-test status era. Ah, and would a social historian just give one the facts and figures? Would he stand back from analysing the data that he has collected? Thankfully, Guha does not. His analysis is precise, correct to an extent of assurance most of the times, and I should not really complain, for the only situations where I differed with his views completely in the first three parts of the book was about Calcutta football, clearly not one of Mr. Guha’s fortes. The book is divided into four chapters to indicate the four great social waves into which Indian cricket could be divided. To start with, the establishment of cricket in the country, and the osmosis of the stiff-upper-lip fish-and-chips sport into the spicy kitchens of India ( a simple example: the conversion of the popular proverb “it isn’t over ‘till the fat lady sings”, often used in the game of glorious uncertainties, to the manifold more colourful “it isn’t over till the fat sardarni from Bulandshehr does the bhangra” which I happened to read somewhere); the opposition Indian cricket had to face in its infancy from the British rulers who hardly considered Indians capable of ever playing the game at the standards of the founders of the game; a nice analysis of why this game more than any other, took the fancy of the Indian public in general, on how the nature of the game was perfectly suited to the Indian’s tastes and behavioural idiosyncrasies; are all perfectly reproduced in the first part of the book, termed ‘Race’. The next chapter deals with that bane of the Indian Hindu society, caste. As cricket grows in the country, so does the country develop and try to eradicate the bane of untouchability from within it. Rather, how Dalits make their presence felt in the arena of sports, this serving as just a precursor to their presence at all other segments of society, in spite of all the despicable methods adopted by the higher castes to keep them from the mainstream Hindu folds. It is here that the chief characters of the book, the Palwankar family, are presented to the reader. The third part of the book deals with the most direct intermingling of the freedom struggle and cricket in the country. Religion, an issue which was hardly a major factor in the previous two parts of the book come into serious focus in this part, due especially to the times (the 30’s to the 50’s), and the religious uncertainty permeating the country at that time.. CK Nayudu, possibly the most dominant Indian sportsperson (definitely in the minds of the public) in pre-independence Indian sport, comes to us with all his spectacular brilliance as a sportsperson and with his most human flaws. The fourth part does not deal so much with the cricket as with the fans of the game, and how they underwent the transformation from a genuine cricket-loving race, appreciating good sport and yet wanting their side to win, to rowdy partisans, who want the team to win at any cost; now putting the cricketers on a pedestal as national heroes, now unceremoniously pulling the images down after one shoddy performance. Guha’s style of writing befits that of a historian with a knack for writing. For all his love for the cricket of the Palwankar brothers, he never goes at lengths into the beauty of Palwankar Baloo’s follow-through, neither does he go ballistic in his praise of Vithal’s batting and fielding. He presents the facts exactly as they are. Economical with his words, he says what he has to say exactly the way he wants to say it. His analysis is almost always supported with facts and numbers and reliable anecdotes. I was really glad to see that he does not go into comparison between cricketers of different ages, a common bane of sports writers. He presents the facts as a historian, does his analysis as an analyst, with the help of numbers and vignettes rather than any pre-conceived notion, and is convincing throughout. But if I could say, the bane of this book, and of Guha himself, is the bane of most historians. Very true to the facts in his analysis of history, he never overshoots, neither does he miss any single strand of information in his accurate analysis of Indian cricket before Independence. The first three parts ring true because of the meticulous research and impartiality of his observation and analysis, And this is precisely where he misses out in the last section of the book, where his personal feelings come in (obviously so, for how can you be impartial and observational as a historian to something you have yourself seen with your eyes), making this part more strident, clearly taking sides, the Ramachandra Guha in him comes into prominence with his preferences and dislikes, his political and his social beliefs; the impartial, impassive historian in him gradually sliding into the woodwork. The voice, economical with words, clipped, with an honest ring to it, becomes shriller, with the analysis becoming more and more the case of one trying to prove his point by hook or by crook. And that has to be anticipated too. Historian or no historian, no Indian, especially someone with so much passion for the game and the country, could be completely impartial in their observations of the two major panacea of the country, cricket and politics. What comes across the most at the end of this book is the intense love for a game by the author. It is possibly because of this love that he is able to be impartial and honest in his analysis in the first three parts, and even more so, this great love could be sited as the reason which prompts his to sometimes be a bit opinionated in the last part of the book. All in all, a knowledgeable, intelligent, researched read, which thankfully never becomes tedious in its pursuit of the unrecorded and unregistered. I would call it a definite success, Guha did reach where he wanted to in the end. I think it’s quite a landmark in the Indian sports writing arena, and would recommend it to everyone who has a love for social issues, the Indian freedom struggle or cricket, and can at least appreciate the other two. It, I guarantee, will be quite an enchanting read and a rewarding experience. Thank you, Mr. Guha.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sourya Dey

    This book is good. It is very well researched and contains details of India's earliest cricketing tournaments and heroes. I thought I used to be a cricket lover, but I didn't have any idea of the game's history in India. Did you know, for example, that an 'Untouchable' named Palwankar Baloo was India's star cricketer in the 1920s? Or that cricket's popularity originally grew in a tournament with teams divided along communal lines? I got to know such a lot from this book and would definitely reco This book is good. It is very well researched and contains details of India's earliest cricketing tournaments and heroes. I thought I used to be a cricket lover, but I didn't have any idea of the game's history in India. Did you know, for example, that an 'Untouchable' named Palwankar Baloo was India's star cricketer in the 1920s? Or that cricket's popularity originally grew in a tournament with teams divided along communal lines? I got to know such a lot from this book and would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in reading about the game. On the other hand, I'm docking a star because the book is a bit too well researched. There are places where the author tries to make a point by harping on endlessly about it and providing the viewpoints of a dozen different people. This makes the middle of the book drag a bit, but for the most part, it's very readable. I personally liked the final section on cricket after India's independence the most, although that's probably because I connected with the likes of Kapil Dev and Sachin Tendulkar more than CK Nayudu and Ranjitsinhji, stars though they doubtless were. I also want to point out that this is not a stats-filled book. If you want accounts of games, great innings and bewitching spells of bowling, this book is not for you. It is an account of the evolution of cricket in India with the freedom struggle, communal tensions, politics and the craziness of subcontinental mobs as backdrops. And, despite (or perhaps due to) all that, this book manages to be quite compelling.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Arundhati

    Definitely the most lucid, engrossing, and incisive book on cricket by an Indian author. The history of cricket in India (and not of Indian Cricket, as Guha points out) by a man who knows his history and his cricket. It doesn't get much better than this.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Gaughan

    This is a brilliant history of cricket in India (and Pakistan), a superb book about why we play and watch sport, and an excellent introduction to the history of India itself.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sriram Ravichandran

    Fascinating narration by Guha on the history of Indian cricket. The chapters on pre-independence and early independence kept me hooked. Must-Read !

  17. 5 out of 5

    Upendra Bapat

    This is a book for Cricket lovers and for those readers who are waiting to latch on any stories, that reveal a great deal about that India - which had its soul directed towards Freedom!!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Swaroop

    Guha is an excellent historian and does a great job of tracing the origins of cricket in India. The first 10 or so chapters of the book are the strongest. I had only vaguely heard of the likes of C K Nayudu and Vijay Hazare. I didn't know anything about the quadrangular and how important the tournament was to cricket in India in those early days. The stories about Palwankar Baloo and his brothers were fascinating. I can't imagine the amount of digging and investigation it would have taken to get Guha is an excellent historian and does a great job of tracing the origins of cricket in India. The first 10 or so chapters of the book are the strongest. I had only vaguely heard of the likes of C K Nayudu and Vijay Hazare. I didn't know anything about the quadrangular and how important the tournament was to cricket in India in those early days. The stories about Palwankar Baloo and his brothers were fascinating. I can't imagine the amount of digging and investigation it would have taken to get all those stories. I do think the book should have been shorter and would have likely been better, if it chronicled the history of cricket up to the 60s or late 50s. I don't quite understand how a book on the history of Indian cricket makes no mention of Desert Storm in Sharjah or Vinod Kambli breaking down. I think Guha's work tends to be colored by his biases especially when it comes to contemprary history. He clearly doesn't think much of one day cricket or T20s and doesn't mince words when it comes to the IPL. It sounds like he has a severe problem of 'Kids these days'.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Abhishek

    Owing to the atypical bailiwick of this book with atypical title , I was not sure what to expect of this book but I gave it a read owing to the reputation of the author. And to say that this book is an absolute stunner would be an understatement because this book is beyond comparison, a master in its own league. As the title of the book says , this book regale the illustrated history of Indian cricket, a sport bequeathed from the Britishers. The likes of Palwankar Baloo, C.K Naidu, Jamsheb Ranjisi Owing to the atypical bailiwick of this book with atypical title , I was not sure what to expect of this book but I gave it a read owing to the reputation of the author. And to say that this book is an absolute stunner would be an understatement because this book is beyond comparison, a master in its own league. As the title of the book says , this book regale the illustrated history of Indian cricket, a sport bequeathed from the Britishers. The likes of Palwankar Baloo, C.K Naidu, Jamsheb Ranjisinghji etc who are generally unheard of, are described in great details in this book. The major theme of this book is the Bombay Quadrangular tournament played between Hindu, Parsi, Muslim and European gymkhanas. This tournament took place for almost thirty years and had the great fan following in those days .It is during those years of quadrangular that players like the Baloo brothers, Naidu come into public glares. The controversy surrounding the communal nature of the tournament is also very well documented, highlighting the views of various Politician, editors and cricketers. Even after the termination of the quadrangular, the popularity of the sports failed to diminish and soon after India’s assents to her independence the people began to cherish the national team. Even though the hockey team in those days was taking the world by storm with its gold medals plunder in the Olympics its popularity does not faze the popularity of this game. In the later part of the book the focus shifts to Indo–Pak rivalry and the advent of the modern cash rich cricket in Independent India. The most beautiful part of the book is the incorporation of the political and the sporting ambience of that time. The struggle of the game and its patron to survive in those difficult times make this book even more worthwhile. The author has captured the very essence of the India of that time , struggling for independence and enjoying cricket to ease her difficult life. This book is beautifully written and is easy to read and can be called belles-lettres in spite of being very informative.

  20. 4 out of 5

    RH

    A highly recommended history of Indian cricket. It provides readers not just with insight into the rise of the sport in India, but also of the course of religious relations in colonial and post-colonial times. However, the book repeats sections about the campaigns to end communal Quadrangular/Pentangular tournaments far too many times, making it a tad more detailed than it needed to be.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sanket

    A recent article in @guardian by historian David Kynaston enlisted ten best books about cricket and cricket history. A corner... found a place in the list and rightly so. A brilliant chronicle about Indian Cricket (and Indian Politics around cricket) , it tells the story of the once frowned upon sport by the natives which found its feet among the royalty of India and then merges into the very DNA of India. In fact travel by any means to any place in India, the chances of you getting a glimpse of A recent article in @guardian by historian David Kynaston enlisted ten best books about cricket and cricket history. A corner... found a place in the list and rightly so. A brilliant chronicle about Indian Cricket (and Indian Politics around cricket) , it tells the story of the once frowned upon sport by the natives which found its feet among the royalty of India and then merges into the very DNA of India. In fact travel by any means to any place in India, the chances of you getting a glimpse of an ongoing cricket match is astronomically high. From the paddy fields, to the beaches to the stadiums , cricket is omnipresent. We all bleed blue (Slogan of the Indian Cricket Team). Ram Guha is a brilliant writer and his love for the foreign game which us Indians have made their own(like 'chinese' food or samose mein aloo) shines through every page of the book. I hope that every Indian cricket enthusiast and every budding cricket historian has this book on their shelf. It deserves to be there.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Anoochan

    This book was on my To Read list for a long time! Guha talks about the advent of Cricket in Mumbai and traces its growth in the politically fraught times of pre-independence India. Guha's love for the game and his love for History are both evident in the book and it is a surreal read for those who want to understand why the game become so popular in India. The book also pays rich tribute to some of the forgotten greats of Indian Cricket. What made me give only three stars to the book was because This book was on my To Read list for a long time! Guha talks about the advent of Cricket in Mumbai and traces its growth in the politically fraught times of pre-independence India. Guha's love for the game and his love for History are both evident in the book and it is a surreal read for those who want to understand why the game become so popular in India. The book also pays rich tribute to some of the forgotten greats of Indian Cricket. What made me give only three stars to the book was because it became somewhat of a rant in the latter parts. Guha is an opinionated person and his political views took the fore in what was otherwise a pretty nice book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ankit Modi

    This book is a detailed account of how Cricket became India's love child. It has stories about unsung cricketing heroes like Palwankar Baloo and C. K. Nayudu. It is about the popularity of the Quadrangular series, how Cricket helped in bridging the gap between castes and religions, how it got affected by the ongoing Independence movement and how the Nayudus & the Tendulkars gave a breath of relief from the daily frustrations of life in the country. A must read for every Cricket fan in India. This book is a detailed account of how Cricket became India's love child. It has stories about unsung cricketing heroes like Palwankar Baloo and C. K. Nayudu. It is about the popularity of the Quadrangular series, how Cricket helped in bridging the gap between castes and religions, how it got affected by the ongoing Independence movement and how the Nayudus & the Tendulkars gave a breath of relief from the daily frustrations of life in the country. A must read for every Cricket fan in India.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kurishin

    Perhaps my expectations were too high given the accolades this book has received. If you are looking for an investigation into why cricket has become so popular in India, you won't, in my opinion, find that here. If you were wondering who won the 1910 Quadrangular and who might have scored a century, then this is your book. I had to skim large portions, not finding them relevant to a larger picture.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Venky

    A must read if one eats, sleeps and breathes the game. The history of Indian cricket was never before enriched in such a vein. The story of the untouchable and a magician spinner Palwankar Baloo takes the cake!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Uday Bhaskar

    Would suggest this to a cricket fan. Got to learn about some of the pre-independence era greats of the game from the subcontinent who I never heard of. Also he explains well of how the game evolved in the country, and got shaped by and shaped history.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Arjit Anand

    The book gave me more than a peek into the history of the game in India and the linkage to political and social scenario in the country with the game is the constant theme of the book. A pleasant reading for anyone who loves cricket and politics.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Omkar Mankame

    A wonderful book that takes you down the memory lane. An authentic account of Cricket in India of the early days and how it all began. The stories are fabulous and the information is incredibly detailed.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Arun

    Though not a cricket fan myself, cricket has been an integral part of me by virtue of being born in a country called India. Guha's work takes us through three centuries of cricket in India through the lens of race, caste and nation.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sameer Kesava

    History of Cricket in India. Fantastic and engrossing.

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